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ABOUT US

THE VA WAY MISSION

The VA Way works to improve mental health of veterans, members of the music industry and their communities by connecting them to mental health trainings, resources and events.

EVERY JAM HELPS A MIND EVERY JAM HELPS A MIND EVERY JAM every jam helps a mind every  

Harmonize Your Mind: Where Every Beat Helps Your Mind.

Fun Sure Is Fun Logo

In a world where the pace never seems to slow, recognizing the simple truth that "Fun Sure Is Fun" becomes an anthem for our mental well-being. It's a reminder that amidst the complexities of life, embracing moments of joy isn't just about indulgence—it's about nurturing our mental health. We can tap into a boundless well of joy through the universal language of music—because "Every Jam Helps a Mind."

 

Music is not just background noise; it's a journey of emotions, a catalyst for connection, and a bridge to our inner selves. Each note, each rhythm, acts as a key unlocking parts of our consciousness we seldom explore. Whether it's the euphoria of discovering a new song that speaks to your soul, the catharsis of belting out lyrics to a favorite tune, or the tranquility found in the gentle strumming of a guitar, music is a testament to the healing power of fun.

 

This fusion of fun and music goes beyond mere enjoyment; it's a therapeutic endeavor. Research and experience alike show us that music can elevate our mood, reduce anxiety, and even improve cognitive function. It's a reminder that every jam—every encounter with music—nourishes our mental landscape, helping us to cultivate a healthier, more vibrant state of mind.

 

So, let's celebrate the rhythm of life by embracing the mantra that "Fun Sure Is Fun" and "Every Jam Helps a Mind." Let every beat, every melody serve as an invitation to journey into a world where mental health and wellness dance in harmony. For in the embrace of music, we find not just fun, but a profound source of healing and connection to our well-being.

FUN SURE IS FUN FUN SURE IS FUN FUN SURE IS FUN FUN SURE IS fun fun sure is fun fun sure is

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Concert
Soldier in Uniform

We are committed to supporting the mental health of military Veterans, members of the music industry and their communities.

  WHO WE SERVE  

Concert
Soldier in Uniform
Community

  WHAT WE DO  

We are committed to supporting our communities by connecting them with mental health trainings, resources and events to shatter stigmas and save lives. 

OUR STORY

In 2014, after serving 7 years in the Army, John made the transition to Civilian life and witnessed firsthand how difficult the transition can be. He landed a job as entry-level management at a Jiffy Lube in Baltimore, Maryland, and within a year, he was managing 8 different stores. By 2006, he bought into the Jiffy Lube franchise and had two locations. 

 

As an employer, he found that he was constantly struggling to find skilled and reliable staff, so he made the decision to seek out Veterans. In 2014, We participated in Operation Hire and was awarded the Governor's Citation for hiring the most veterans by percentage within 90 days.

 

Hiring Veterans does not come without its challenges. One day at work at Jiffy Lube, a veteran was in crisis, and John did not know how to handle or respond. However, he spent two hours that night talking to the veteran, helping him calm down and preventing him from hurting himself. The very next day, he sought assistance from the VA with his contacts and got training in Mental Health First Aid. 

 

By 2016, the Jiffy Lube was composed of 85% veterans, with over 60% of them trained in Mental Health First Aid. John was the only Jiffy Lube in America to send his team of veterans to get trained in Mental Health First Aid. Once they returned, it was clear that the impact of this training was overwhelmingly successful and everyone's lives changed for the better. Consequently, the store became the number one store in Maryland in 2016 for increases in satisfaction and sales, eventually turning it into a $1 million store. He truly believes that it was because of veterans, but moreover, having everyone trained in Mental Health First Aid.

 

In June of 2018, he trained to be an instructor in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to move forward helping the Veteran community with MHFA training. He currently sits on the Opioid Collaborative Community Council (O.C.C.C.) and Howard County Behavioral Health Advisory Board as a voice for Veterans and to help with this ongoing crisis in our community. 

 

Additionally, he became certified to train and administer naloxone, a drug to prevent overdose.

 

In 2019 and 2020, John worked tirelessly to spread more mental health awareness by teaching MHFA. Of course, Covid put in-person training on hold throughout these difficult times. During this period, he created something to help him navigate all the mental health challenges that he had, plus the traumatic situations he was going through. So, he came up with the acronym GRAVY - a plan of daily practice of Gratitude, Routine of good self-care, Awareness of where you are mentally and of those around you, Vulnerability, and understanding how to navigate that, and You, realizing that every individual's mental health matters.

From 2016 to 2020, the VA Way held monthly third Thursday Bluegrass Meetups at a local venue called The 8x10 in Baltimore, Maryland. These monthly entertainment events spread awareness about the importance of improving mental health and what communities could do to improve it for Veterans and musicians alike. 

 

In 2022, The VA Way had the opportunity to team up with other people and put on a large event with one of the missions being mental health awareness in the community. The Annapolis Bluegrass Music Festival for 2023 was an award-winning success for bringing mental health awareness to the community, proving that bringing vital resources to this community was well received and accepted not only by fans but the artist. Additionally, the VA Way orchestrated a mental health panel at the Festival along with training 500 people in naloxone Narcan training for prevention of overdose at the Festival site.

Moving forward into 2024, the VA WAY is very excited to partner with organizations that all have the same goals in mind to help our communities recognize that mental health is just a challenge and we need to work around it through education and training in mental health first aid. In addition, they will be working very hard to provide businesses with training on naloxone to prevent overdose and 988 and mental health first aid introduction. The VA Way has recognized that you must collaborate to elevate. Understanding that every jam helps a mind, bringing music and community together is a healing journey at the end of the day. We just want to make sure that we understand Fun Sure Is Fun when your mental health is doing better.

A man holds a microphone on stage next to a woman who is holding a guitar

JOHN WAY

VETERAN,
FOUNDER & PRESIDENT,

THE VA WAY

In 1999 he landed a job as entry level management at a Jiffy Lube in Baltimore, MD and within a year he was managing 8 different stores. By 2006 he bought into the Jiffy Lube franchise and had two locations. As an employer he found that he was constantly struggling to find skilled and reliable staff, so he made the decision in late 2013 to seek out Veterans. Veterans, he said, are highly skilled, able to lead and be lead. And truth be told, he had a soft spot for them. From 2014 to 2018 he hired over 80 Veterans of which approximately 18 were homeless. 

 

Hiring Veterans does not come without its challenges, as many are returning to the civilian world with stress, trauma, mental and physical health problems. After seeking assistance from the VA, John received training in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

This training proved extremely helpful for him in understanding not only the challenges his staff faced but also gave him deeper insight and awareness in helping his Veteran staff live happy and productive lives. In addition, after training approximately 50% of his staff in MHFA he saw an undeniable increase in both sales, customer satisfaction and reduced turnover rate. It was very clear then and now how MHFA training can improve the quality of life for anyone that receives training. In June of 2018 he trained to be an instructor in Mental Health First Aid to move forward helping the Veteran community with MHFA training. He currently sits on the Opioid Crisis Community Council (O.C.C.C.) and Howard County Behavioral Health Advisory Board as a voice for Veterans and to help with this ongoing crisis in our community and he is in the process of becoming  certified for training others how to administer Narcan. 

A man sits at a table with his hands folded as he smiles

GARY CANTEEN

VETERAN & CO-FOUNDER,

THE VA WAY

As I reflect on the journey that has shaped my life, I am humbled by the opportunities I've had to serve and advocate for those in need. My name is Gary M. Canteen, and my story is one of dedication to my country, my fellow veterans, and our communities.

In 2014, I embarked on a new chapter in my life when John Way and I partnered to run a Jiffy Lube franchise. Our primary mission? To provide employment opportunities for veterans, particularly those who were homeless or underemployed. Little did we know that this endeavor would evolve into something much greater.

My military career spanned an awe-inspiring 24 years, marked by moments of bravery and sacrifice. From serving in three combat tours during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), to Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq), I've witnessed firsthand the resilience and courage of my fellow servicemen and women. The numerous awards and accolades I received, including two Bronze Star Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, and six Army Accommodation Medals, are symbols of the commitment I poured into my service.

But my journey didn't end with my military career. It took a pivotal turn when I faced personal challenges and made a life-changing connection with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Through this connection, I met John Way, the visionary founder of The VA WAY.

John's passion for supporting veterans resonated deeply with me. Together, we embarked on a mission to address the pressing need for mental health first aid training among veterans, particularly those experiencing homelessness. Over the past decade, we've spearheaded vital initiatives, providing essential resources and support to empower homeless veterans with opportunities for employment and personal growth. Our advocacy for a compassionate approach to combat homelessness and unemployment among veterans has been unwavering, driven by our shared belief in extending a "hand up" rather than a "handout" to those who have served our nation.

In addition to my work with the VA WAY, I am proud to currently serve as a Veteran Employment Specialist for Easter Seals. In this role, I am dedicated to helping veterans reintegrate into society by providing essential resources and employment opportunities through the Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program (HVRP). Every day, I am privileged to witness the transformative impact of our efforts as we work tirelessly to change the lives of our veterans for the better.

While my tenure with Jiffy Lube ended in 2019, my commitment to the cause of veterans and the VA WAY remains as strong as ever. The past ten years have been filled with challenges and triumphs, but I am incredibly excited about what lies ahead. My dedication to helping our communities, both veterans and the music industry, burns brighter than ever before. As I look to the future, I am filled with hope and determination to continue making a positive impact wherever I go.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of service, advocacy, and hope. Together, let us strive to build a brighter future for all.

 OUR PARTNERS 

  Our partners are a vital part of reaching our communities. 

Call 988 Logo
Annapolis Baygrass Music Festival Logo
Anne Arundel County Health Department Logo
Project Plase Logo
Nami Howard County Logo
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